Prevage Face Advanced Anti-Aging Serum continues the carefully orchestrated launch of Prevage, which was first marketed to physicians and is now available in what is termed an “over-the-counter” version, marketed under the Elizabeth Arden name. Arden partnered with Allergan, the company that makes Prevage, to create a product that contains the “powerful” antioxidant idebenone (listed on the ingredient list as hydroxydecyl ubiquinone). What is the difference, you ask, between the dermatologic version and the one sold at the Arden counter? The original Prevage formula is billed as “physician-strength” and contains 1% idebenone, while Arden’s cosmetics-counter version contains 0.5% idebenone. The physician-strength angle is bogus because idebenone is not a drug of any kind, nor is it regulated or akin to any type of prescription treatment. There is no reason it can’t be sold in any retail channel. Such positioning and exclusivity is clever marketing on Allergan’s part (the company also distributes Botox, Latisse, and markets the M.D. Forte skin-care line).
The intense curiosity about this product has been nothing short of amazing, with most women asking me if idebenone really is the best antioxidant available. The study that showed idebenone has the antioxidant muscle to surpass others involved only 30 subjects, and compared idebenone to vitamins C and E, alpha lipoic acid, coenzyme Q10, and kinetin. The study did not, however, compare the effects of idebenone to many of the hundreds of other potent antioxidants that commonly appear in other skin-care products, nor did it compare the effects of idebenone with the effects of a combination of antioxidants. Perhaps a cocktail of antioxidants would far surpass idebenone—we don’t know. Interestingly, a study comparing the protective effect of idebenone on sun-exposed skin found it ineffective compared to topical application of vitamins C and E with ferulic acid, but this study was conducted in part by Dr. Sheldon Pinnell, whose SkinCeuticals line sells an antioxidant serum with those very ingredients (Source: The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, May 2006, pages 1185–1187).
The world of antioxidants is far more complex than the mere handful that Allergan compared to idebenone. To date, there are still no published, peer-reviewed studies that support idebenone’s alleged superiority. This does not mean idebenone is not a valid antioxidant for skin. Given what we know about how ubiquinone performs in the body, it is definitely not a throwaway ingredient. What is fairly certain, however, is that it is neither the best nor most potent antioxidant around. Comparing Allergan’s original Prevage formula to Arden’s is like comparing night and day. Arden’s water-in-silicone version is silky-smooth, and with a formula that’s nearly identical to that of Allergan’s “medically positioned” (however inaccurate that is) Prevage MD. Both Prevage products are water-in-silicone serums that contain several skin-friendly ingredients, including glycerin, phospholipids, green tea, sodium hyaluronate, and algae.
Which Prevage product to choose isn’t a tough decision, given that efficacy levels for idebenone have not been established. The fact that Arden’s product contains 50% less than the original Prevage is inconsequential, and there is no research proving that 1% idebenone is preferred to Arden’s 0.5%. Is Arden’s readily available version worth the money? Despite its elegant formula, the answer is “no.” Considering that idebenone is not the definitive antioxidant and that many companies are producing antioxidant serums and lotions that contain a cocktail of antioxidants, Arden’s price point is undeservedly high. The product is a worthwhile option, and the formula is suitable for all skin types—unless you’re sensitive to fragrance. But money-wise, lots of companies have antioxidant-loaded products that cost less (in some cases, much less) and, due to their blend of antioxidants, potentially offer skin a greater complement of benefits. One last note: The mica in both Prevage products lends a slight shimmer to skin, which the companies describe as enhancing skin’s radiance; it’s just shine, nothing more.
Note: Despite all the hullaballoo about this product getting a “facelift” and a fancier name (previous is was called Prevage Anti-Aging Treatment), we've confirmed with Elizabeth Arden that it’s only the packaging that has changed, not the formula.